Tuberculosis, Beta Cells and Type 1 Diabetes

Tuberculosis, Beta Cells and Type 1 Diabetes: In this article we bring two stories that affect Type 1 diabetics. The information covers Tuberculosis in Type 1 as well as new research that could result in either a therapy or cure for this pancreas destroying disease.

Researchers consider the prevalence of Tuberculosis (TB) in Type 1 diabetics to be worth further consideration. Does TB signify diabetes or does diabetes point to developing TB?

While researchers can’t answer that question definitively what they do know is that TB shows up in Type 1 diabetics 3 times more frequently than those who do not have this disease.

The research is compiled from more than 40 years worth of collected data. “These studies consisted of over 1.7 million participants who had 17,698 cases of TB,” details from PloS Medical indicate. “Diabetes mellitus is characterized by abnormally high blood sugar level due to insufficient amounts of the insulin hormone, and TB is an infectious disease that usually attacks the lungs.”

In emerging countries like India and China this potential link may provide a reason to push for diabetic screenings in order to reduce the spread of TB. The PloS report developed by Jeon CY, Murray MB further states, “TB kills about 1.6 million people every year, a number that may decrease if diagnosis and treatment of diabetes can interrupt TB as well.”

Meanwhile American and European researchers are pushing forward with research that may allow dormant cells to be switched on to active beta cells. This is getting the attention of researchers because this could be a crucial step to effectively kick starting the pancreas in Type 1 diabetics.

Researchers have been able to successfully reprogram cells in mice to become active beta cells following the destruction of those cells in Type 1 diabetics. According to a press release from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International (JDRF), “In type 1 diabetes, the immune system attacks beta cells, stopping a person’s pancreas from producing insulin, the hormone that enables people to get energy from glucose. One pathway towards a cure for type 1 diabetes may be to restore insulin production through regeneration of insulin-producing beta cells within a person’s body, an alternative to transplanting functional beta cells from a donor.”

Richard Insel, M.D., Executive Vice President of Research of JDRF is quotes as saying, “This study suggests that regenerating beta cells may be a viable pathway towards restoring beta cell function in type 1 diabetes. It reinforces the concept that there are progenitor cells in the mouse pancreas that can generate new beta cells under special circumstances. And it points to some potential cellular targets for beta cell regenerative therapeutics – both the pancreatic progenitor cells and the alpha cells. Further, the research identifies a critical protein and pathways that can be used to screen for small molecule drugs for developing beta cell regenerative therapeutics that target these cells.”

The critical protein mentioned is called Pax4 and it appears to enable the body to alter certain cells to enable effective management of Type 1 diabetes from within your own body.

The JDRF press release concludes by saying, “By forcing expression in the pancreatic alpha cells of the protein Pax4 – a so-called transcription factor capable of modifying expression of multiple genes to regulate patterns of development or other key cellular functions – the researchers drove the conversion of alpha cells into insulin-producing beta cells in mice. The resulting reduction of alpha cells triggered the activation and differentiation of progenitor cells to replace the alpha cells that had switched to beta cells.”